Britain needs to double or even triple the rate of offshore wind installations in order to end its reliance on energy imports, industry figures have warned.
According to a study by Offshore Energies UK (OEUK), the government will miss its target of quadrupling offshore renewables by 2030 unless planning delays are reduced.
This week, OEUK will publish a survey of the energy security landscape in the UK.
The UK currently has 2,500 offshore wind turbines which produced 12% of the country’s electricity last year. Nuclear generated 15%, while gas was responsible for 40% of electricity in the UK.
About half of the gas is imported, making the UK dependent on world markets and vulnerable to shortages and price shocks, such as that seen when Russia invaded Ukraine.
Boris Johnson has targeted a fourfold increase in offshore wind by 2030, increasing capacity from 12GW to 50GW, to make the UK “the Saudi Arabia of wind energy”. Such capacity would be enough to power every home in Britain, provided the wind blows.
However, in its report, OEUK warns that this expansion poses an “enormous” challenge, with 3,200 new and much larger wind turbines needed by 2030 – around three new wind turbines every two days.
The group found that nearly half of the projects needed to meet the target are only at the concept stage, with projects typically taking 13 years or more to move from concept to operation. Obtaining planning consent alone can take four years.
OEUK said the target would only be achieved if the government scrapped regulations and planning delaysincluding reducing consent periods from four to one year, streamlining the environmental assessment process and creating a fast-track process for non-controversial projects.
Ross Dornan, lead author of the report, said: “At the end of August, OEUK was aware of approximately 40 projects planned through 2030 at various stages of the development cycle. Based on this pipeline, the goal of the energy security strategy is potentially achievable, but it is important to understand the uncertainties and risks associated with the project.
“This scale of installation is very ambitious and will require significant improvements to the regulatory and permitting process. Of the potential capacity additions before 2030, 46% (nearly 18.5 GW) are only at the design stage,
“History shows that it takes about 13 years to go from concept and application to operation. This means that the UK’s 50 GW ambitions will only be achieved if it can be accelerated.
OEUK said many oil and gas producing companies are also investing in renewable energy. He added that offshore wind would play an important role in generating clean electricity to power offshore platforms, thereby reducing emissions from oil and gas production.
A spokesman for the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy said: ‘The UK is a world leader in offshore wind energy and we are going even further, supplying up to 50GW of offshore wind capacity by 2030. We do this because the more clean and cheap electricity we produce at home, the less we will be exposed to the volatility of fossil fuel markets.
“We have already outlined how we will cut the time spent on the planning and approval process for new wind farms by more than half as part of our UK Energy Security Strategy released earlier this year.”